Social Media: Game Changer in the Olympics

9 Aug

Recently dubbed the “Socialympics”, this year’s London Games has been dominated by social media, making it the most watched Olympics in history. According to a social media monitoring platform, Salesforce Radian6, the US had 15 million social mentions about the Olympics, as of Friday August 3. Possibly as a result, the London Olympics have outperformed the 2008 Beijing Olympics ratings by 10 percent. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has tried to monitor social media surrounding the games by creating guidelines for sponsors, athletes and spectators. However, the wide scope of social media platforms and the vast array of users have hindered their restrictions. Not without controversy, social media has become a mainstream focus of the Olympics, expanding its reach across the world.

The IOC set the stage for social media usage in the Olympics by launching the Olympic Athletes’ Hub, organizing photos, videos and chats from the Olympic Village online. Because of the explosion of social media in the past 4 years, the opening ceremony alone boasted more tweets than the entire 2008 Beijing Games.  Social media surrounding the games began positively; according to Adweek, the opening ceremony elicited five times as many mentions of the word “proud” than it did of  the word “bored”.

#Twitterverse Heightens Controversy

However, some controversy arose as the Games settled in.  First, the IOC banned athletes from using social media to promote personal sponsors, limiting what they could post on their social forums.  Many athletes were upset by this, claiming that in order to finance and support their Olympian status they needed to thank their sponsors. In response, they created the hashtag #WeDemandChange and complained about the ban on Twitter.

Another debate arose when NBC decided not to broadcast the Games live. Because of delayed footage in America, people often saw the results online before they were televised. A hashtag, #NBCFail was created after the result of the Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte race was announced on NBC before the event was aired. NBC has emphasized that criticism about the tape-delay is a minority opinion, noting that in a survey of 3,000 viewers , 67 percent said even if they knew the result of a prime-time event they would still watch the tape-delayed broadcast later in the day.

Another mishap occurred when Twitter went down for a couple of minutes due to too many Olympic-related tweets. As a result, the IOC asked fans, athletes and reporters to limit their tweeting and picture/ video uploads.

Don’t Forget Mobile

With the rise of social media in this year’s Olympics, mobile interaction played a big role as well.

  • Before the games occurred, three quarters of US and UK survey respondents said they would follow the Olympics on their mobile devices in some way, according to a report prepared by the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence. Also, 50% said they would use their mobile devices in relation to the Olympics while watching events on TV.
  • According to NBC and BBC, almost half of their Olympic video streams were from smartphones and tablets.
  • NBC’s Apple and Android Olympic apps were downloaded 6 million times since the start of the London Games.
  • According to Google’s mobile ads marketing team, the largest mobile and tablet audiences occur at night and around large events.

The Future of the Olympics

This year’s Olympics taught us how the integration of social media has changed the way we view and interact with the world. While mishaps and controversies ensued, social media played a large role in heightening the excitement around the Games and connecting fans, athletes and the media. In the future, the IOC and media outlets like NBC can learn from the mistakes made in 2012 and be prepared for an even more social world to come.


One Response to “Social Media: Game Changer in the Olympics”

  1. Zoë Geddes-Soltess (@zodot) August 9, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for linking to our Olympics data in the Mashable article. We appreciate the mention!

    Zoe Geddes-Soltess
    Community Engagement, Radian6

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